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Tech - December 3, 2022

Is Technology A Good Thing In Baseball?

Is Technology A Good Thing In Baseball? 1

Many will say commissioner Rob Manfred has ruined baseball due to technology’s involvement in Major League Baseball.

While sports betting is being popularized among many states due to its legalization, baseball stands to gain from those who get hooked on gambling. It brings awareness to Vegas online casino games and other non-sports-related gambling themes. All are powered by technology.

Beyond that, though, is the usage of technology in Major League Baseball, which truly began happening long before Manfred took over for Bud Selig as commissioner. Here’s a look at how technology is helping and hurting baseball.

5 technologies that are revolutionizing baseball

Viewing games

The game has grown with technological developments such as television, allowing fans to view matches at home and stream from anywhere. The issue today, though, is the league thinks fans only appreciate teams in the market they live in, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

MLB’s blackout rules hurt its product. For example, baseball fans in Iowa are blacked out from viewing the six closest teams: the Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, and Kansas City Royals. Never mind, the league has happily capitalized on the popular “Field of Dreams” movie by hosting games in Iowa at the scene of the movie set.

Beyond that, the home viewing experience has caused some issues, too. The rectangular box displayed when a pitcher delivers his pitches has given fans plenty of opportunities to gripe about balls and strikes being called. That isn’t good for the league’s umpires, who generally get those calls correct 94% of the time.

But the development of MLB Network has largely been a good thing, to give fans a go-to place to catch up on highlights, analysis, breakdowns, and other quality coverage with a pool of former players who provide great insight daily.

Analytics

People have gotten jobs because of the use of analytics. These equations likely didn’t get counted by hand in the 1980s. But computers, laptops, and other devices can quickly perform equations to calculate what angle a ball is hit and how hard it was thrown and hit for basic stats. From there, thousands of data points allow for stats like expected batting average, batting average on balls in play, projected distances (key in practice with launch angles and exit velocity), and other factors that give teams more to play with.

Those data points were hidden behind closed doors for a long time but were used in front offices across the league to form teams. Now fans have access to those data sets and can weigh in on whether a transaction is a good thing in the long-term or short-term.

Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays were popular for using this data, among many other reasons, for turning the small market organization into a contending team quickly. Other groups quickly followed suit by shifting defenses and using openers – typically relief pitchers who would throw the first inning or two instead of a fifth starting pitcher.

Changing the Game

Fans grew tired of the home run or bust approaches offensively against the shift. The common complaints were “learn to hit it the other way,” but the math equations said it is more likely to generate a run on a home run than taking the free single. That led to lower batting averages, higher pitch velocities, and a decline in viewership.

Fast forward to the upcoming 2023 season, and the shift has been banned by the owners and players association in the latest collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Beginning in the spring, two players will be on each side of the second base, and their feet must be on the infield. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t shift in a two-and-two set-up.

Going Old School?

Fans shouldn’t expect hitters to magically get more base hits because they will still be swinging for the fences. But the technology will have more data sets to see whether that is still a good idea. A pitch clock is being instituted so games will be quicker, but it may also mean a dip in pitching velocity.

So maybe technology is both good and bad.

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